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Originally published Tuesday, March 23, 2010 at 3:52 PM

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Seattle Public Schools right to drop idea to tax donations

Seattle Public Schools rightly decided not to impose a tax on donations from the PTA. It is counterproductive to encourage parents to support their schools through the PTA and then charge them a fee for doing so.

SEATTLE Public Schools will not impose a tax on donations from the PTA after all. Great. But district officials' announcement that, on second thought, a 3.3 percent processing fee was not "a productive suggestion" does not explain how such a dumb idea ever saw the light of day.

The school system said it was looking for strategies to deal with a growing deficit. But it is certain the district would have incurred a larger deficit once it had to pay for classroom needs currently paid for by vigorous PTA fundraising.

It is counterproductive to encourage parents to support their schools through the PTA and then charge them a fee for doing so.

It is troubling that even as the district shelved the proposal, it inexplicably sought to defend it. A letter to PTA leaders argued the measure's merit, pointing out that it takes administrative time to manage PTA funds. An example cited by the district: When a PTA-sponsored grant pays for a part-time music teacher, the new employee must be hired, added to the payroll and granted an e-mail account, all done by the folks down at central administration.

It is not a strong argument. The accepted rationale for Seattle's comparatively large central administration is the promise of a well-staffed organization's ability to administer services and funds more efficiently than if schools were to do it themselves. Parents already pay for this.

District leaders must develop a better ear for what works and is acceptable to city families. Floating a ridiculous idea only to pull it back amid an uproar weakens the district's already fragile bond with families. Parents cannot help but wonder what other ideas at central administration are awaiting their ride up the flagpole.

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